Do Hyphens Affect SEO?

do hyphens affect SEO

Using hyphens is a good thing for SEO, particularly in URLs.

Using hyphens in URLs helps make them more readable which is better for the user and therefore better for SEO purposes.

Having hyphens in your domain name isn’t bad for SEO and shouldn’t have a direct impact on rankings, however it can indirectly impact your SEO efforts over time if people struggle to remember the dash or if people perceive your site as being more spammy than the non-hyphenated version as this means they are less likely to link to your domain.

When it comes to using hyphens in keywords Google is very good at understanding the nuance and differing contexts of different hyphen use cases, so just make sure you use the hyphen appropriately and Google will work things out.

Is Having A Hyphen In Your Domain Name Good or Bad?

From a pure SEO perspective having a hyphen in your domain name is neither good nor bad for SEO. It shouldn’t have any impact on how hard/easy it is to rank your site.

However having a hyphen in your domain name can cause secondary issues which in turn can impact your SEO:

  • Hyphens can make a domain seem less trustworthy.
  • Hyphen in a domain can make a site harder to remember.

This means that a user may be less inclined to link to your site in favour of a more trustworthy sounding unhyphenated site.

It also means that if someone is talking about your site they will have to clearly explain that there is a hyphen in your domain name.

If someone then forgets to put the hyphen in they will end up on another site which won’t do you any favours.

Having an unhyphenated domain is always preferable for branding reasons, however hyphenated domains can often be bought far more cheaply and should rank just as well so long as the factors mentioned above don’t come into play too significantly.

I have one hyphenated domain of my own that gets around 100,000 sessions a month…would it get more if it was unhyphenated?

I’ll never know because the unhyphenated site isn’t willing to sell!

Does A Hyphen In a URL Hurt SEO?

The hyphen “-“ is essentially read by web crawlers to be a spacer, so using it does not cause any SEO problems.

In fact, using a hyphen in your URLs is optimal as it makes the URL far more readable,

See the examples below:

  • https://danrich.co/do-hyphens-affects-seo
  • https://danrich.co/do_hyphens_affects_seo
  • https://danrich.co/dohyphensaffectsseo

Which of these is most easily readable?

While there is an argument to be made for the underscores these are a bad idea as they are not commonly used so anyone trying to type that URL in may default to the dashes anyway.

Matt Cutts (formerly of Google) wrote about this particular issue long ago.

The URL that uses no dashes or hyphens is almost unreadable.

The more easily a URL can be read the better this is for search engine rankings.

One thing to note is that you shouldn’t try to replace dashes with spaces, because if you try to format a URL like this;

  • https://danrich.co/do hyphens affects seo

..it will be displayed like this:

  • https://danrich.co/do%20hyphens%20affects%20seo

Because spaces are shown in URLs as %20 which is far more messy and far less readable than a dash.

Does Google Ignore Hyphens?

No, Google does not ignore hyphens.

Google spokesman John Mueller has addressed how Google understands the use of hyphens on two separate occasions:

To summarise Google is very good at working out the contextual difference and nuance between a hyphenated and unhyphenated keyword.

A good way of working out how Google may perceive the difference between a non/hyphenated keyword is to search each variant in Google and see what results come up.

You can then use whichever variant provides results that fit your website best.


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Famous Websites With Hyphens

To be honest there aren’t many well-known websites with hyphens in their domain.

The reason for this isn’t that hyphenated domains rank worse, rather it is primarily that non-hyphenated domains are more expensive and they are easier for users to remember.

When a website becomes ‘famous’ it is going to be making a significant amount of revenue which makes it easy for it to purchase the primary non-hyphenated version of its domain.

This is a logical step to take as it also makes it far easier to promote the domain on TV & radio as the lack of hyphen makes it easier to remember.

For example, it is far easier and more memorable to tell someone to “visit big chungus dot com” than to “visit big dash chungus dot com”.

Many famous sites do own the hyphenated version of their domain, a couple of examples include:

  • Washington-post.com is owned by, and redirects to, washingtonpost.com
  • Cartoon-network.co.uk is owned by, and redirects to, Cartoonnetwork.co.uk

However they choose to use the non-hyphenated version at it is easier to remember.

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